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The Death of Traditional Advertising Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Articles about the growth of online marketing proliferate in the trade media and even mainstream publications. Everyday I see Google and Facebook mentioned numerous times. Newspaper, radio, direct mail and other traditional forms of advertising seem to get mentioned when someone points out the decline in recent years of those mediums.

But a funny thing has happened. The television upfront, the commitment by agencies and major advertisers to the networks for the fall TV season, is reportedly selling at or above double-digit gains as I write this. Radio posted a six percent revenue increase in 2010 after years of declines, according to the Radio Advertising Bureau. We use direct mail successfully for a number of our clients, and I’ve heard success stories from other marketers recently who used old school tactics such as the Private Mailer sale.

Some media truly are dying, yellow pages being at the top of the list. For all practical purposes Google is the new yellow pages, but instead of getting updated once a year, it’s updated in real time. Who is going to pick up a year-old book with limited information when comprehensive and up-to-date information is a few clicks or screen touches away?

Newspapers are also experiencing difficulties. I think the way they conduct business will have to fundamentally change if they expect to survive. They still have a monopoly mentality, but now exist in a competitive, service-oriented world.

So why is traditional media being tossed on the trash heap by professional and citizen journalists? I think it’s a simple case of new and exciting versus established and known. The internet and social marketing are changing and evolving right before us every day, and that’s fun to see happening. Television might be broadcast digitally and in HD now, improving the viewing experience, but the basic premise of the entertainment provided is the same as it’s been for decades. Radio is in the same boat.

In an adaptation I haven’t seen much written about, maybe because it’s so obvious it elicits a “duh,” old media has integrated new media into its self-promotion strategy. It’s also selling advertising to supplement traditional revenue streams. The top local website in my home market, the Raleigh-Durham DMA, belongs to WRAL-TV, the CBS affiliate. The top 11 local websites ranked by visits are associated with television and radio stations or newspapers.

I think a big piece of today’s marketing story is the integration of old and new media and their ability to complement each other through mutual promotion. A viral video that gets two million views is mentioned on a national television show and all of a sudden has 10 million views. A television show about to be cancelled is saved by an online support campaign orchestrated by fans. Pick up a magazine and you’ll find online content being promoted in its pages.

We in the marketing world have to be vigilant that we don’t ignore the big picture in pursuit of new media just because it’s new. Traditional media is still capturing the public’s attention daily. Online media is too, often at the same time. Before long social media and online advertising won’t be new and shiny. They’ll be tools in our arsenal of options to drive business. Just as radio coexisted with newspaper and television coexisted with radio when they came along, the various new media options will complement and coexist with traditional media.

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